Andrew Uroskie – Group 4
The Media and Racially Motivated Crimes: From Selma to Ferguson
Andrew Uroskie’s presentation on Selma Last Year is a revealing look at the American media’s role in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. The images of those who marched and the savagery of how they were treated while doing so put faces on the movement. They were front and center in the viewing public’s field of vision and allowed the public to acknowledge something outside of the typical white American experience, while simultaneously presenting identification for African-American viewers who shared experiences of oppression with those who marched. The media’s evolution in presenting racially motivated crimes since the events at Selma has been that of reporting not only the initial crimes and larger backdrops to them, but also events that at first seem unconnected yet actually grow out of these initial events. Within this media evolution there is a regrettable issue of decentering the victims of these crimes in the continual reporting on the events that follow by making the crimes the context for later events rather than being the main issue themselves. While this shift of focus does not necessarily represent an intentional movement away from African-American issues in the media, these shifts are an unfortunate side effect that audiences must be conscious of while reviewing the primary events (the crimes) and the secondary outcomes of those events (the larger contextual story) that unfold afterwards.
The recent cases of racially charged acts of violence against Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown are clear examples of this evolution of the media’s reporting. While the initial reports centered on these two victims and the crimes committed against each, much like those of the marchers in Selma, their stories unfolded on an exponential scale in regards to both time and space to include issues that are not, at first glance, connected to racially motivated crimes. If the reports surrounding the cases of Martin and Brown are to give a full story then they are required to look at the events surrounding and those occurring after the crimes. Not only must they look at the court cases of the perpetrators, they must also look at the public outcry over the atrocities committed against these young men. The public, however, is a product of the exponential growth in time and space. No longer do communities solely consist of those living with or near the victims of crimes. “Community” has taken on a broader meaning. It’s not only the people directly connected to Martin and Brown who are considered as such, but those who are connected to them as audience members, with or without similar experiences. Through new forms of media like Twitter and Facebook, along with traditional media, the audience is given a more personal connection to the victims on a far more regular basis than in the 1960s. And the “community” expands across physical and racial borders and in shorter amounts of time.